Startopia is a PC game released in 2001, developed by Mucky Foot Productions (formed by ex-Bullfrog employees) and published by Eidos Interactive. Set in an era of reconstruction after a devastating galactic war, the game revolves around the rebuilding and maintenance of toroidal space stations which acts as a spaceport, tourist destination, and ecological system. The galaxy is populated by various colourful alien species who will visit the station, all having individual needs to be fulfilled.
Wearing its Bullfrog legacy on its sleeves, the game mixes and matches elements from Theme Park, Theme Hospital, and Dungeon Keeper. As a business simulation, it’s the player’s job to lay out facilities and hire aliens to staff them, having control over such minute details as individual furniture placement within rooms. Basic needs such as food, sanitation, and rest have to be met, as well as industry, security, and leisure. Crucially, the player has only indirect control over hired staff.
Thematically, the game is lighthearted and comedic. The game draws from numerous science-fiction sources, with Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy being prominent.
The space station is divided into segments separated by enormous bulkheads; expansion means buying and repairing neighbouring segments. If there are rival station managers present, all-out war is allowed in order to conquer station segments. Less action-oriented scenarios include non-violent competition as well as scripted levels. There is also a sandbox mode available.
The space station has three decks, each used for a different purpose:
The bottom engineering deck is the main deck and contains most of the station’s facilities, including docks for ships, power generators, medical centres and so on. The Groulien Salt Hogs will provide the backbone of your industrial labour on this deck.
In the middle, the pleasure deck is the economic centre of the station, where shops and entertainment facilities are built. Wealthy aliens, such as the Polvakian Gem Slugs, will reside here exclusively, disdaining such things as manual labour and the presence of the unsightly working class.
With an outlook to the stars, the bio-deck consists of deformable terrain which can be terraformed to into different climates. It’s used to grow plants for harvest, and aliens within the station will visit to relax—each species preferring the climate of their home world. Here, the Karmaraman hippies maintain your flora, and the fanatic Zedem Monks set up a holy shrine to convert the unbelievers.
In general, starting from scratch entails building up a basic service economy to generate initial wealth. Toward the end-game of a station, a player can specialize toward such goals as creating a resort paradise of glimmering shops, hotels and leisure facilities, or perhaps a fully industrialized, self-sustaining station which harvests the bio-deck for raw materials, to be turned into manufactured goods for trade.
The game was re-released in 2005 under the Sold Out label.